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Exposure to radiation after Chornobyl increases risk of thyroid cancer in children and adolescents

New York -- In a study of thyroid cancer after the Chornobyl accident in 1986, researchers at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health report that exposure to radioactive iodine ingested through the food chain increases the risk of thyroid cancer in children and adolescents. The study is published in the July 5 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

The 1986 accident at the Chornobyl nuclear power plant exposed large numbers of people in Belarus, Ukraine, and the Russian Federation to highly radioactive material. Numerous studies have shown that exposure to certain types of radiation increases the risk of thyroid cancer in children and adolescents. However, up until now, few studies examined the effects of exposure to radioactive iodines, which can get into the food chain, and only three studies measured cancer risk from the Chornobyl-related exposures.

The team of researchers at the Mailman School of Public Health, with colleagues, screened more than 13,000 people for thyroid cancer who were under 18 at the time of the Chornobyl accident and lived in highly contaminated areas of Ukraine. The researchers estimated each participant's individual radiation dose using thyroid radioactivity measurements made shortly after the accident and interview data obtained during screening.

The researchers found 45 cases of thyroid cancer in the screened group in comparison with the 11.2 cases expected without the accident. Subjects had a tendency toward lower risk of thyroid cancer with increasing age at the time of the exposure. The authors suggest that exposure to radioactive fallout from the Chornobyl accident increased thyroid cancer risk in those exposed as children and adolescents.

"In young children and adolescents, thyroid gland tissue requires large amounts of iodine coming primarily from food," said Geoffrey R. Howe, PhD, professor of epidemiology at the Mailman School and principal investig
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Contact: Stephanie Berger
sb2247@columbia.edu
212-305-4372
Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health
5-Jul-2006


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